China gains a lot of headlines for its leadership in renewable energy production, and rightly so, as they push to hit peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
However, its neighboring giant, India, is also working on reducing its environmental impact, too, so let’s see what they’re doing…
Actions taken at the country level
First, let’s explore some India-wide actions:
Renewable energy drive
In order to meet its COP26 requirements, India is targeting adding 450 gigawatts of renewable energy to its mix by 2030. This is because coal is still king in India for now accounting for around 44% of its energy sources and 70+% of power generation, so moving away is a slow process. However, according to Reuters, the adoption of renewable energy is happening at an increasing pace:
Coal-fired generators supplied 76% of all electricity to the transmission network in February despite the rapid deployment of wind turbines and solar panels.
Renewable capacity increased by 15% in January 2023 compared with a year earlier, and there were even more impressive increases in actual generation from wind (50%) and solar (+37%).
In the medium term, the government anticipates renewables deployment will stabilise and then reduce the need for coal. But that goal is still some years away.
We will see huge investments into the renewables industry in India over the coming years which will lead to a veritable boom. One of the panellists at the April 2023 session “Financing Renewables – where is the money coming from?” stated (Source: Mercom):
With the government setting an ambitious goal of 450 GW, the renewable sector would easily attract a business of up to US$500 billion, our of which $300 billion would be for solar and wind, $50 billion for storage, and $150 billion for transmission lines needed to evacuate that power.
Renewables have strong government support, too, not only due to pledges made at COP26, but also because there is likely to be a lot of money saved in the longer term (Source: Businesstoday):
India can save up to $19.5 billion a year if it goes with its plan to add 76 GW of utility-scale solar and wind power by 2025, new research from Global Energy Monitor has stated.
Annual savings in India can skyrocket if the coal-to-clean switch matches the country’s ambitions. India plans to add an additional 420 GW of wind and solar power by 2030, which would increase the annual savings from avoiding coal power to more than $58 billion, with total savings reaching $368 billion by 2030.
Commitments India has made
The ‘Glasgow climate pact‘ (an interesting document that is worth reading if you’re interested in the topic) made at the COP26 summit includes a number of commitments that applied to India.
In more detail (Source: BBC):
It was agreed countries will meet next year to pledge further cuts to emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) – a greenhouse gas which causes climate change.This is to try to keep temperature rises within 1.5C – which scientists say is required to prevent a “climate catastrophe”. Current pledges, if met, will only limit global warming to about 2.4C.
For the first time at a COP conference, there was an explicit plan to reduce use of coal – which is responsible for 40% of annual CO2 emissions.However, countries only agreed a weaker commitment to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal after a late intervention by China and India.
The agreement pledged to significantly increase money to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change and make the switch to clean energy.There’s also the prospect of a trillion dollar a year fund from 2025 – after a previous pledge for richer countries to provide $100bn (£72bn) a year by 2020 was missed.While some observers say the COP26 agreement represented the “start of a breakthrough”, some African and Latin American countries felt not enough progress was made.
Fossil fuel subsidies
World leaders agreed to phase-out subsidies that artificially lower the price of coal, oil, or natural gas.However, no firm dates have been set.
India, one of the world’s major emitters of CO2, made 5 commitments at COP26. Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlined 5 ‘elixirs’ for climate change (Source: NDTV):
1. India will reach its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030.
2. India will meet 50 percent of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030.
3. India will reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now to 2030.
4. By 2030, India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy to less than 45 percent.
5. By 2070, India will achieve the target of net zero emissions.
With point 1 in mind, the rush to invest in renewables becomes clearer. It must be said, though, that reliance on coal will be hard to shake and India was the last large polluter to commit to ‘net zero’ and the target of 2070 is twenty years later than the target of 2050 that scientists call for:
Scientists say we must halve global emissions by 2030, and reach net-zero by 2050, in order to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
Why India and other developing countries have a raw deal
Unfortunately, India and other developing countries are in their development phase at just the wrong time.
India itself is only responsible for around 3% of historical CO2 emissions, despite being one of the highest emitters presently. As you can see, developed countries have emitted far more CO2 (Source: Our world in data):
Unfortunately, though, as climate change begins to bite, India, China, other Asian countries, Africa, etc, are all faced with developing and keeping to their climate pledges at the same time, something the UK in the 18th and 19th centuries certainly never had to worry about.
Climate change’s impact on India itself
India in particular is quite vulnerable to climate change, as this World Bank report points out. In 2023 alone, India has already suffered from extreme heat waves and flash flooding. This video demonstrates some of the ways that climate will and is affecting India, especially if the world warms up by 1.5 degrees as seems incredibly likely:
At the level of Hubli-Dharwad, where Sofeast has set up our India R&D center
Sofeast selected Hubli-Dharwad as our R&D base in India because it’s a young and ‘smart’ city. The abundance of universities ensures there is plenty of young graduates in the area.
A dedicated ‘Solar City’
Due to its increasing energy demands and location in a very sun-rich area, Hubli has been selected as a ‘Solar City’ by the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy back in 2016:
The Solar City aims at minimum 10% reduction in projected demand of conventional energy at the end of five years, through a combination of enhancing supply from renewable energy sources in the city and energy efficiency measures. The basic aim is to motivate the local Governments for adopting renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures. In a Solar City all types of renewable energy based projects like solar, wind, biomass, small hydro, waste to energy etc. may be installed alongwith possible energy efficiency measures depending on the need and resource availability in the city.
The city has been working on implementing renewables since then, in particular using solar and recycled solid waste to generate energy (Source: Aishwarya Jogul , P P Revankar, 2020, Affordable and Clean Energy in Hubballi-Dharwad Twin Cities, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENGINEERING RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY (IJERT) Volume 09, Issue 02 (February 2020)):
Hubballi Dharwad is cities with abundance of Solar power for 330 days in a year, with makes the city highly capable of generating affordable and clean electricity without effecting the environment. The solid waste generation has increased; a study reveals that the HDMC generates about 400 tons of solid waste every day with per capita waste generation of 0.4 kg/day. Out of the total waste generated, about 360 tons of solid waste is being collected (88.37%). The segregation of waste can help fuel generation from waste which is affordable and clean, most importantly it does not affect the environment. The production of electricity from wind energy is not possible in Hubballi-Dharwad did not pass the site selection criteria.
Hubballi Dharwad can be made a city using affordable and clean energy by installation of solar PV Cells on residential, commercial and industrial buildings roof top, for water heating purposes, solar water heater can be utilized. In tropical countries like India, when solar energy is abundantly gifted, Indians should make it a prime duty to utilize the energy forms which is in free of cost as their primary mode of energy generators. The best months to generate solar electricity are January April & September to December.
Improved public transport
The leadership of Hubli-Dharwad also implemented an innovative public transport scheme (the Hubballi-Dharwad BRTS) where buses have dedicated lanes that improves air quality and reduces the impact of so many private vehicles being on the road:
HDBRTS is a bus rapid transit system built to serve the twin cities of Hubli and Dharwad, located in the North-Western part of Karnataka state in India. Hubli-Dharwad BRTS (HDBRTS) project is a Government of Karnataka initiative to foster long-term economic growth in the region. The project promotes fast, safe, comfortable, convenient and affordable public transportation between the twin cities and aims to reduce congestion and air pollution in the region.
This is actually a lot more advanced than similar transport options in larger cities such as Chennai, for example.
Local air travel, too, has been improved as ‘the Hubballi Airport has become the first ‘green airport’ in the state of Karnataka following the commissioning of an 8MW solar power plant on its premises‘ that you can see here:
The green energy generated here will be sufficient to light up six airports in the state, GPS-aided GEO augmented navigation (GAGAN) installation and Bagalur residential quarters in Bengaluru (Source: Deccan Herald).
Location in the ‘green’ state of Karnataka with abundant natural energy sources
The state of Karnataka is relatively advanced when it comes to renewables. G Kumar Naik, senior IAS officer who was Additional Chief Secretary, Energy Department, made these interesting points about the state’s renewable energy generation (Source: New Indian Express):
Our installed capacity to generate power is more than 31,000 MW all these do not necessarily come at one time.
Over half of Karnataka’s total installed capacity is through Renewable sources and the State is attracting a lot of investments in the green energy sector.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a robust target of 50 per cent of power generation through renewable energy by 2030. Karnataka has already achieved it in 2021. Out of the total installed capacity of 31,669 MW in Karnataka, 15,909 MW is from renewable energy sources. There is also a biomass/co-generation energy source, most of which sugarcane industries themselves are using.
In India, the Central government is giving a 40 per cent subsidy on the installation of solar panels. The efficiency of solar panels has increased. At present, in Karnataka, 280 MW of energy is generated through the rooftop of which over 40 per cent is from domestic households, most of which are in Bengaluru and Mysuru.
We generate around 3,798 MW through hydro stations. We have received good rains in the last few years and getting good rains will make us feel safe. Hydro machines are very flexible and can work very conveniently. You can start and stop as and whenever you want.
At present, we are thinking of reducing coal usage or stress on not putting additional thermal units and focusing more on renewable energy. Even to do this, we have many challenges, including rethinking topography and transmission systems. We need to reorient our electrical system.
When we say energy generation, we are not using electricity alone. We need energy more than electricity and we think of green energy, for which we need renewable sources, including solar and wind. The batteries used for vehicles need to be charged and the energy has to be green energy. There are electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles.
As you can see here, solar, wind, and hydroelectric power make up the bulk of Karnataka’s renewable energy mix (Source: NREL.gov.in):
Solar and hydroelectric power are fairly stable sources of energy throughout the year, especially the former, whereas wind is more seasonal. The hydro generators tend to be used more in peaks when solar is not available, such as during the morning, evening, and night times.
India’s progress in implementing renewable energy and moving away from fossil fuels is probably overshadowed by China’s, but as you can see from the information here, they’re making an impressive attempt to invest and fulfill their climate obligations by 2030 and beyond. How well switching to renewables fits in with the growing boom in India manufacturing currently occurring due to many foreign businesses looking to diversify out of China alone remains to be seen, however…
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